National Communications Commission (NCC) Chairperson Howard Shyr (石世豪) yesterday said the commission has clearly stated on several occasions its position on the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) proposed amendments to three broadcasting acts, adding that the proposed amendments would be considered when the legislature reviews a draft act against media monopolization later this year.
“We have repeatedly given our professional analyses regarding the proposed amendments, including the presentations we gave on Jan. 2 and on Wednesday in this committee,” Shyr said. “We have addressed the potential impact of the amendments. We have said again and again that the wording in legislation of such importance should be more comprehensive.”
“The accusation that we did not say anything about the proposed amendment is false,” he said.
Shyr made the statement during the commission’s weekly press conference, while the legislature was reviewing the proposed amendments to the Radio and Television Act (廣播電視法), the Cable Television Act (有線電視法) and the Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法) at the plenary session.
During a press conference on Thursday evening, the commission pointed out the specific problems the amendments could cause if they were approved.
NCC legal department director Andy Hsieh (謝煥乾), who hosted the press conference, said the commission was “shocked” to see such rough amendments pass the initial review in the legislature’s Transportation Committee, adding that it was “the worst scenario” the commission could expect.
Shyr said that while he agreed with Hsieh’s legal analysis of the amendments, he said that it was inappropriate for a government official to use wording like “shocked” or “the worst scenario” in an official statement, which he said conveys a “subjective opinion” rather than “objective facts.”
Shyr also denied he had met with Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) and personally reported this matter to him.
He said Chen called him twice and sought the commission’s view on the DPP-proposed amendments.
Regarding accusations from anti-media monopoly activists that the commission’s opinions showed that it intended to protect the interests of media owners or buyers, Shyr said it was not a “healthy way” to engage in dialogue.
“I understand the importance of the issue and can sense the earnest expectations for such legislation, but the public needs a more healthy and rational dialogue. It is improper to start a conversation by first questioning people’s motives,” he said.
Hsieh said the proposed amendments bar financial institutions from investing in media outlets, both directly and indirectly. The requirement can also be retrospectively applied to cases on which the commission has already ruled.
The proposal that both direct and indirect investors cannot have a single share of any media outlet was considered “too harsh” by the commission, adding that some media outlets may have problems securing the funding they need to continue operations due to such a legislation.
Fubon’s Group’s purchase of cable TV systems owned by Kbro Co, which the commission has ruled upon, would need to adhere to the new legislation as well.
Hsieh said that the amendments authorized the commission to revoke the operating licenses of media outlets immediately if a financial institution is found to own a share, which would leave the commission with less flexibility in its rulings.
“Generally speaking, the commission should issue warnings or fines before taking away their licenses. In some cases, it [the amendment] would cause the penalty to be disproportionate to the offense,” Hsieh said
“If a financial institution was found to hold shares in a media outlet, it is the financial institution that should be punished, not the media outlet,” Hsieh said. “The amendments would not punish the financial institution, but would penalize the media outlet instead by taking away their licenses. This is unreasonable.”
Shyr said the administrative court in some cases had nullified the commission’s rulings because media companies have no control over the ownership of their shares traded in the stock markets.
Hsieh said requirements such as that an independent director serve on the board and calling for public stock offerings may be difficult to follow for some radio and cable TV operators, as they are running relatively small operations with limited capital.
The requirement stipulating editorial guidelines should be applied to television or radio news programs, not all the programs, he said.
The amendments would also remove some articles, which would cause the removal of regulations barring political parties, the government and the military from investing in media, Hsieh said.